Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Western Employees on Arifjan Sue for Labor Benefits and Win

The article below appeared on the front page of the Arab Times.

USG contractors working in Kuwait MUST abide by the Kuwait Labor Law or face consequences.  Just because employees are working at a US military installation does not mean that employers get to bend the rules to suit them.  

It is good that the article includes the full name of the lawyer, Musaed J. Al-Riyahi,  that is handling the employees' case.  He has successfully won cases for Westerners fighting for their rights.  More people with similar circumstances can now contact him.  Only wish they had published his contact information!  I just did a quick Google search and couldn't find him.  Why don't these guys at least get on LinkedIn?

The Kuwait Labor Law states that a work week is only 48 hours.  Any time over 48 hours is considered overtime.  No such thang in Kuwait as "exempt" and "non-exempt" employees.  It all the same.

Kuwait Labor Law, Article 64
"…it is forbidden to allow workers to work for more than 48 hours per week or 8 hours a day..."

Article 66
The overtime work should not exceed two hours a day, a maximum of 180 hours a year, three days a week or 90 days a year. The worker shall have the right to prove by any means that the employer required him to perform additional works for an additional period of time. The worker shall also be entitled to a 25 percent increase over his original remuneration for the period of overtime."

I wonder how many employees filed the case.  Interesting.

Bottom line is that either the company has knowingly violated legal labor practices to make more money;  or whoever was in charge of overseeing their contract (compliance/contract management?) did a crap job.

Ultimately, if employees don't do anything about it, unscrupulous companies will get away with it.  The Kuwait Labor Law is available online.  Any employee in Kuwait with a Kuwaiti residency visa is governed under the Kuwait Labor Law.  Get edumacated.


Anonymous said...

I wondered what company it was, we are speculating that it is ITT and they have many divisions. But most US contractors are working their employees against Kuwaiti Labor Laws and when I recently spoke to someone who works on this camp for a US company, she told me that her company told her she is under US labor laws, so when I asked her about her working hours and how they addressed overtime, it was obvious that they were violating US labor laws. Bottomline is this, these companies are on a US base in Kuwait knowing full well that the Kuwaitis are not coming in to audit their companies, so they have a field day with violations the rights of their employees and if you complain you are fired, so it is common practice - the ugly side of America. Maybe Camp Arifjan is on the third-tier of the State Department's report on human rights like they thrust at Kuwait year after year, but maybe next time, the Kuwaitis should question the accuser. As they say, don't go into someone else's backyard until you take care of your own. When the US goes abroad they should understand that they must uphold US values overseas.

Desert Girl said...

Great comment - well said!

There are various FAR clauses that must be written into all USG contracts and contractors must abide by them. If they want to pull the "work under US laws" card, then, 52.222-40 Notification of Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act (also known as, "Dude, where's my poster?)

Under FAR Clause 52.203-15 Whistleblower Protections Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, employees who do complain and are fired should be able to be compensated if they report what their employers are doing. If they aren't abiding by laws and aren't paying appropriate salaries or working fairly on labor practices, the employers are defrauding the Government.

Read the effing FAR.

I totally agree with your comment about pointing a finger at Kuwait - that's the pot calling the kettle black. These types of fraudulent labor practices have been occurring in Kuwait since approximately 2002 when Westerners were hired to work in Kuwait. Everybody knows what goes on; nobody talks about it.

If the DOS and DOD is so hot on Human Trafficking (FAR 52.222-50 Combating Trafficking in Persons), why hasn't anyone looked at safeguarding the rights of Western workers in Kuwait? Look first in your own back yard.

Anonymous said...

By the way this woman that I sited in my comment works 7 days a week, 12 hour days and no overtime - appalling!

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 4:59 - That is slavery plain and simple.

Desert Girl said...

An anonymous commenter posed a question about working hours and if perhaps the US Army (military) can request long hours or coverage for more time than the labor law will allow for one employee.

Sure. The military can ask for anything they want. For example, suppose they have a requirement for a guy to stand next to a post for 18 hours a day. Operationally, how are vendor companies going to fulfill? If the law says you can't work an employee for 18 hours per day, then you have to look at it operationally by having more than one employee for the task and working them on shifts. Is the guy going to be in the sun? Then the local law has a stipulation for that. How are you going to get him to the post (transport)? Pricing for all these issues must be considered and written into the proposal/contract.

What is happening is that often, US military procurement people (the guys who okay the proposals) stay in their positions only for short periods of time before they rotate. They are supposed to evaluate contracts by technical capability, past performance, and price. What I see happening more and more often, is that vendors are being selected purely by price - which I think is very very risky to everyone involved.

US procurement officers probably also aren't made aware of local labor law. If a procurement dude is sitting at his desk at Rock Island, what is he going to know about Kuwait's Labor Law?

I personally know that there were several vendors bidding for KBOS3 ethically; meaning they did their research and were ready and willing to pay overtime and abide by labor law and wrote all stipulations into their proposals. However, they lost due to price.

Sarah Scholtz said...

I have had a similar experience a couple of years ago as a US company employee, I've sued them and get a few extra bucks for my end of service indemnity and some national holidays calculation, my lawyer back then said its a guaranteed case as the new labor law is applicable in relation to every worker on Kuwaiti soil except for diplomats, so I went for it and eventually -after a considerable amount of time, just like everything else in Kuwait! - we nailed it :#
The young lawyer who represented me #Dr. Taher alkhateeb .. worked in an expatriates section of a law firm, he was not much of a media guy I guess since I never saw him quoted in the news! yet he was really good with social media communication.. you can find him on linked-in I suppose.
Anyways its always nice to know that one has some extra perks by chance hehe :)